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Creepy Mortician

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Formaldehyde? I wouldn't try that if I were you.

Sheldon: What do you wanna be when you grow up, Dante?
Dante: I'm not sure. I like working with people... But I like being alone, too...
Sheldon: How about being a mortician — best of both worlds.
Dante: Heeeey... Not bad.

Be they morticians, pathologists, funeral house workers or gravediggers — people who deal with the dead have always been assumed to be interesting, because, well, they deal with the dead. That is why in fiction, it is popular to present workers in those professions as either outright creepy, or at least have a way-off sense of humor. Especially if they don't look creepy (or aren't normally so), looking at something like this for the first time can creep any guy out. They play around with the bodies of the deceased, joke while performing scientific dissections, or at least die first during a zombie attack. They are also suspect for profiting from someone else's death; after all, such a person may seem a little too happy about the fact that, now that someone has died, the mortician is going to get paid for the funeral.

The trope can just be Played for Laughs as well as Played for Drama, with often a lot of overlap between the two. The more unsettling version lurks around the graveyard and has an unhealthy obsession with his deceased clients. When they're not in the graveyard, they can be found in rather eerie places, such as near newly deceased bodies or in coffins. Often they are the primary suspect whenever something particularly creepy happens. May turn out to be a Living Doll Collector, a Necrophile, or an outright evil Necromancer. Prone to spout ominous-in-context lines like "Be seeing you..."

If they accidentally encounter a living person instead of an expectedly dead one, it may be related to Waking Up at the Morgue or Buried Alive. Also see Black Comedy.

Compare with the Undertaker character in Westerns — some of whom fit here too, the tropes can overlap.


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    Anime & Manga 
  • The Undertaker from Black Butler. Even creepier in the Manga, where it is revealed, by him, that he is the one responsible for the reanimation of the corpses that were attacking everyone on board the ship. And that was just because he was curious! Justified in that he's actually a Shinigami rather than a human — and a rogue amongst their ranks, in the manga.
  • Gregory Horror Show is built around this. Good old Gregory is downright unnerving, especially as you learn more about what he is. He suffers from Villain Decay in the other three seasons, however, becoming a victim of the greater evils around him. Still, he does feed off of human souls.

    Comic Books 
  • Green Lantern villain Black Hand was reinvented as one of these in the lead-up to Blackest Night.
  • Lucky Luke: Undertakers are recurring characters in this series, usually using formol as perfume, named Mortimer or Rigor O'Mortis, have vultures as pets and already coming to take measurements for the coffins before the cowboys are actually shot down. The most recurring undertaker has a pale skin color, sometimes green and creep out almost anyone they talk to (it doesn't help that to express their gratitude by with custom-fitted coffin). Subverted in a few strips where one is shown to play violin at a party (all for the sake of a Life of the Party pun) or when one, after a burial, asks if anybody wants to use his cabs to go back in town and say.
    Undertaker: Driving someone to the saloon would have been nice for a change.
  • The main character of Rachel Rising has an Aunt Johnny that has been working as a mortician for a long time. While she's not creepy, she is much more used to being around the dead than the living at this point, so she's a little rough in the social skills department, and the ways that her mind distracts her during her work hours leaves her just slightly disconnected from reality at the start of the first volume, until Rachel brings her back to Earth.
    Aunt Johnny: Spend 20 years with corpses and see how you end up, smartass.

    Fan Works 

    Films — Live-Action 
  • In the 1993 anthology film Body Bags John Carpenter portrays the Coroner, a wacky character who has a twisted fascination with the corpses he gets every night and hosts the framing segments. Among other things he holds conversations with the dead people around him and even plays around with some of them. Subverted at the end when he turns out to be another corpse come to life when the real coroners appear.
  • The title character of Cemetery Man, despite being played by handsome Rupert Everett, is still pretty crazy and spooky.
  • Waldo Trumbull in The Comedy of Terrors is an undertaker... played by Vincent Price. In a small New England town. Of course he's murdering people to keep his business going. As the film is a comedy he's not the scariest Vincent Price character (he's not very competent, and Vincent Price's usually menacing Lean and Mean appearance comes across more as gangly and ungainly when he's drunkenly staggering around), but he's still killed multiple people before the events of the film, and kills or tries to kill several more during the film. He's a petty, cruel bastard who shows a total Lack of Empathy or remorse, and thinks Murder Is the Best Solution to any problem.
  • The mortician Dobbs in Dead & Buried is a bit too interested in making the bodies presentable. He's also turned everyone in town, including himself, into a zombie.
  • Tony Todd's character, William Bludworth, in the first two and fifth Final Destination movies seemed to know a lot more about recent goings-on than he let on. Oh, and he also sounded like the Antichrist.
  • Mortuary: Paul. He works as a mortician with his father, and is a killer who murdered Mr. and Mrs. Parson, Josh, and then his father.
  • This character is a staple of bad movies, if the morticians of Mystery Science Theater 3000 are any indication.
    • The mortician from Agent for H.A.R.M., for example (played by Robert Donner, better known as Exidor from Mork & Mindy):
      Morgue Attendant: [grinning] Mr. Chance? Dr. Stefanik? May I present Mr. Henry Manson? [solemnly] I'll prepare the autopsy room.
      Mike Nelson: My apologies for my odd performance.
    • There's also Smolkin, the gravedigger in The Undead who'll sing death or plague-related songs on a dime.
  • The Phantasm films have the Tall Man, adding a touch of Humanoid Abomination for effect.
  • Played with in Rachel, Rachel. Rachel's mortician father isn't all that creepy really—but Rachel is, taking an unhealthy interest in her father's job. She goes so far as to get a flower and climb into a coffin that has been put out for the dead child her father is working on at that moment.
  • Very subtly played in The Return of the Living Dead, which you could easily think to be an inversion. Ernie the mortician is strongly implied to be an ex-Nazi: when we first meet him, he's listening to a World War II German march on his headphones, and when startled, he produces a Luger. Later on, we see a poster of Eva Braun in his office.
  • The Undertaker: Roscoe, the titular undertaker, is this. He rarely raises his voice, he looks like a fatter, less handsome Vincent Price, he talks to the corpses while working on them... oh, and he's a killer who likes keeping his victim's bodies hanging from chains on a pipe in his basement office.
  • Van Helsing: The Transylvanian village as a really creepy gravedigger wearing a top hat, who welcomes the protagonists. And later tries to kill Van Helsing for... some reason. He is eventually killed by Velkan in his werewolf form, and upon dying, rolls into the grave he was digging.

  • In Neil Gaiman's American Gods, Ibis and Jacquel's Funeral Parlor is run by two Egyptian gods, one of whom (Anubis) consumes a part of every organ of the deceased. This actually lines up with Anubis' mythological portrayal, and it's implied that him taking part of the heart in particular is actually a sign of great respect.
  • In the Bequin trilogy, Beta encounters a tribe of anatomists while exploring an underground ossuary. These anatomists have spent all their lives in this underground place in the company of death, and have gone quite mad as a result: they build grotesque sculptures out of human bone and viciously attack anyone who enters their territory.
  • According to the Discworld Companion, the Guild of Gravediggers, Embalmers and Allied Trades, like all Ankh-Morpork guilds, cultivates a certain image in its members, which in this case includes training in morbid humour and ventriloquism.
  • Averted (bordering on discussing this trope) in one of Dean Koontz's novels, where it is specifically stated that the morgue crew the protagonists meet are totally unlike the stereotypical image of their profession in fiction.
  • Oliver Twisted: The undertaker, Mr Sowerberry, can converse casually about how to profit off the funeral business from the choice of material used for coffins. He and his wife were keen on cutting off Oliver's tongue when he showed no signs of change under their care, and almost go through with it. To top it all off, they appreciate their fresh supply of meat they get from the job.
  • Invoked and averted in The Saga of Darren Shan. When Darren is still a new half-vampire refusing to drink human blood, his mentor Mr. Crepsley takes him to the city morgue to meet the pathologist Jimmmy Ovo. Darren grew up on a steady diet of horror movies, books, and comics in the early '80's, and he's surprised that the morgue is as clean and professional and un-creepy as it is, and that Jimmy is such a normal person. An added twist is that Jimmy is as creeped out by the vampires as they are of him. (As for why he helps them anyway, the prequels give a backstory to this — vampires saved his father from a concentration camp).
  • In The Undertaker novels, Barnaby Gold was this before becoming a gunslinger: having been an Undertaker alongside his father. The folks of his hometown always regarded him as "not right up top"; being cold and emotionally detached and not having normal emotional responses to events like his father's death.

    Live-Action TV 
  • The CSI series and its spinoffs, as most criminal shows, features forensic pathologists as side characters. A few one-shot funeral home workers also get this treatment to some degree. They're particularly fond of one-liners whenever they find anything interesting about the person's corpse or death during the autopsy. Especially CSI NY:
    Sid: [after finding a ringing phone inside a victim of the week] My very first dead ringer.
  • Due South had Mort, who would sing opera while doing his autopsies.
  • Homicide: Life on the Street:
    • Scheiner, one of the recurring medical examiners, is a very eccentric and at times off-putting man with No Social Skills. When Bolander returns to work after being shot, Scheiner cheerfully comments he expected to see him in the morgue as one of his corpses.
    • The Villain of the Week from "The Documentary" was a mortician who stole the corpses from his mortuary so they would keep him company. He murdered his neighbors in cold blood for threatening to report him for it.
  • Kolchak: The Night Stalker has morgue attendant Gordon "Gordy the Ghoul" Spangler, an exceedingly chipper fellow who runs a lottery at the morgue for crime reporters.
  • The mincing, Ambiguously Gay Dennis Rainbird from Midsomer Murders. He even drives a Porsche with a RIP license plate, and one of the first things he says about a murder victim is how she prepaid for the most expensive funeral service, with a tone implying that he's very much looking forward to it. He and his mother are the town gossips and way too involved in everyone else's affairs, which makes them suspicious from the start but they turn out to be a Red Herring and are killed by the actual murderer.
  • Monty Python's Flying Circus has a sketch about an undertaker who wants to eat a man's dead mother.
  • Averted in The Munsters. Herman works in a funeral parlor and Lily apparently has her hair done by a mortician. In spite of these details, they're more amiable than sinister.
  • Murdoch Mysteries has a woman pathologist as one of the main characters — a lady capable of "quoting poetry while cutting a man's body open". While Murdoch loves Julia, he's never quite got used to "morgue humour", as lampshaded in a season 10 episode where the new morgue assistant thinks her own attempt has offended him, and Julia tells her not to worry about it.
  • My Name Is Earl had Mr. Hammerick (played by John Waters), who liked to arrange the deceased in what he called the "Living Tableau". That is, he would arrange them for viewing, not in a coffin, but posed doing their favorite thing. (This isn't always popular with the families, who often wish for a more traditional burial, which he finds to be cliched and boring.)
  • NCIS gives us Dr. Donald "Ducky" Mallard. His habits include going into unnecessary detail in describing what he is doing around the team, talking to those he is performing an autopsy on, and his criminal psychology degree means that he talks about the mess in a killer's mind with almost as much detail as he describes the mess in the body of their victims. Also, Gibbs will occasionally bring an uncooperative suspect down so Ducky can explain to them exactly what will happen to their bodies if they don't start cooperating.
  • Psych had Woody the coroner, who was generally pretty odd. At one point, he's caught with a furry website pulled up on his work computer.
  • The Punisher. Special Agent Madani wants to look at some corpses the NYPD has in the morgue, so Karen Page gets the help of a medical examiner's assistant whom everyone refers to as "Creepy Ed", who asks an unnamed favor from Karen in return. The audience doesn't find out what the favor is until a later scene showing Karen walking around the hospital barefoot, while Ed is wearing her high-heeled shoes.
  • Sam leaps into a mortician in an episode of Quantum Leap, who was already regarded as rather distasteful by the people in town, and then he starts trying to solve the murder of his most recent corpse, asking questions and pawing through her things. Since he is the protagonist it doesn't really play that way, but when a guy whose job involves his arms being elbow-deep in the recently deceased starts demanding answers to questions about your sex life....
  • Six Feet Under, a series about a family-run funeral home, subverts this trope. The characters have their issues, but they always attempt to treat the deceased with respect and provide some consolation to the families.
  • Starsky & Hutch: The coroner who appears in the pilot apparently has a habit of perving on murder victims. "Neat little figure she had. Wonder what her face looked like?"

    Myths & Religion 
  • The Vodoun/voodoo deity Baron Samedi a.k.a. Saturday takes this appearance. In some lore he lurks in graveyards looking for people to turn into zombies.

  • Antigone Funn of Wooden Overcoats works as a mortician at her family business, Funn Funerals. She's extremely quiet, morose, and has a habit of lurking in the shadows, to the point that she seems to be literally allergic to daylight. Her extreme social awkwardness doesn't help.

    Pro Wrestling 
  • While The Undertaker more fit the Western trope early in his career (and still has a few hints of it), his former manager Paul Bearer fit this to a T, with pale skin, modern black suits, and a really creepy high-pitched voice. Even better, William Moody, who portrayed Bearer, really had worked as a mortician before becoming a pro wrestling manager. Moody maintained his mortician certifications all the while he was a wrestling manager, and returned to the funeral trade after his time as a wrestling manager ended. He told of several times someone at a funeral would recognize him, and want to take a picture of him with the recently-deceased. He always declined.

  • Played for Laughs in The Goon Show with Gravely Headstone, as in the following (quoted from memory):
    Seagoon: You can't bury me, I'm still alive! It's impossible!
    Headstone: Not impossible, but one should have to box exceeding clever.
    Seagoon: No, wait, you can't bury me yet — I want to join the Guards.
    Headstone: No man under six foot can join the Guards. Come along.
    Seagoon: No, no! Keep away! Aaagh!
  • The '40s and '50s radio (and later TV) sitcom The Life Of Riley had a comedic version of this in Riley's pal Digby "Digger" O'Dell, "The Friendly Undertaker", who specialized in hilariously morbid puns referencing his line of work, such as his usual greeting ("Hello, Riley. You're looking very... natural today") and signoff ("Well, goodbye, Riley. I'd better be... shoveling off").

  • Hamlet fits into this trope with the gravedigger, digging a grave while joking about who is to be buried there.
  • Oliver!, both the stage and film versions, has a whole family like this. They even get a song, "That's Your Funeral". In the film this is downplayed, the song is removed and Mr. Sowerberry is rather partial to his drink.

    Theme Parks 
  • The Caretaker from Universal's Halloween Horror Nights is a soft-spoken mortician and surgeon that dug up bodies from numerous graves to use for company, furniture, or even as a dinner ingredient. He's not any more kind to living, either; as he kidnaps innocents to use as guinea pigs for "living, breathing autopsies".

    Video Games 
  • Kohlingen's undertaker in Final Fantasy VI gives off the strong impression of having been driven mad by his chemicals. While Locke is explaining his tragic backstory to Celes, complete with the minor-key version of his Leitmotif setting the mood, the undertaker bounces around the room giggling about how perfectly he's preserved the corpse of Locke's Lost Lenore, Rachel.
  • Hu Tao, director of the Wangsheng Funeral Parlor from Genshin Impact, is what you get when you cross this trope with Genki Girl. Unlike most of the examples on this page, Hu Tao is cute, cheerful, and youthful... she's just way too casual about death for most people's liking. She aggressively advertises her business under the premise that since everyone's going to die eventually, they should prepare by getting a good deal at her parlor, which most people are highly uncomfortable with due to not sharing her willingness to embrace the inevitability of death. Hu Tao acts this way because she doesn't think people should treat death as such a taboo topic, and that it should be accepted as a natural part of life.
  • Aesop Carl, the Embalmer, from Identity V, follows the game's trend of having Survivor characters who are actually more messed up than the supposedly-villainous Hunters. Aesop's backstory is that he was taken in by an embalmer after his mother died, and taught the trade — the twist is that his mentor believed there were a lot of people walking around alive who were actually dead, and it's the embalmer's job to help them accept their deaths. Aesop follows in the mentor's footsteps so eagerly that the mentor himself becomes a victim. Letters from the manor show that Aesop didn't give up his practices after arriving there, and wants to embalm his teammate, Postman Victor Grantz.
  • Dampe from The Legend of Zelda: Ocarina of Time is often seen lurking around the graveyard when you are young Link, it gets kind of unsettling what with the Poes that also lurk around there. Bizarrely enough, a cute little kid idolizes Dampe and spends daytime wandering around the graves trying to mimic the gravedigger. He pays you a lot of rupees for a spooky mask that helps offset his cuteness.
  • Mr. Russett from The Lost Crown is a subversion: he looks fairly creepy, but is actually one of the most helpful people Nigel meets.
  • The gravedigger in Quest for Glory IV is a creepy hunchback who is nonetheless friendly and helpful despite his... unusual sense of humor. His name is Igor, too.

    Web Animation 

    Western Animation 
  • In Gravedale High, the bus driver Boneyard resembles this trope. He dresses similarly to a mortician and the bus he drives looks like a hearse.
  • Double Subverted in Gravity Falls by Robbie's parents. They run the town funeral home, but unlike their sullen Emo Teen son are constantly happy and friendly. So much so that they come out the other side and become creepy again whenever they talk about their work.
    Mr. Valentino: [insincerely] Oh dear, I hope nobody was killed.
    Mrs. Valentino: Oh yes, that would be awful. [laugh]
  • The New Adventures of Lucky Luke: One episode has the Undertaker Union unhappy that Luke is damaging their business by minimising fatalities, so that they ask expert undertaker Mortimer Deadflower to do something about it. The undertaker takes the recurring extra undertaker Barnaby (who is shunned by anyone else in town) as a lackey and ends up trying to drive the inhabitants of the town Luke is staying in to kill each other, sorta like in Asterix and the Roman Agent, even setting the Sheriff against Luke by convincing him that Luke wants to steal his job. In the end, Luke manages to outsmart him by being nice to Barnaby and tricking everyone into believing the Sheriff shot Luke in a duel over who gets his job, leading the undertaker to tell everyone in town about Deadflower's plan to make them fight and kill each other to boost sales.
  • The Simpsons: Homer and Bart visit a funeral parlor run by a creepy Vincent Price type. When Bart gets locked in a coffin and starts screaming in terror he chuckles, "Ohh, the living!"
  • In its first Halloween episode, South Park featured morticians eating while preparing Kenny's body, and accidentally spilling sauce into the embalming fluid. And this of course leads to a Zombie Apocalypse.
  • Tex Avery MGM Cartoons:
    • The first Droopy cartoon, "Dumb Hounded", has the wolf character jump off a building while a mortician suddenly appears next to him during the fall, takes his coffin measurements and then disappears again.
    • It looks like the same mortician in Avery's "Li'l 'Tinker" as a skunk tries to attract girls by impersonating Frank Sinatra, he walks up behind him while singing and takes measurements (one of many morbid "Frankie is skinny" gags).

Alternative Title(s): Creepy Undertaker, The Creepy Undertaker